Anonymous on the case: Internet vigilantes
By Carla Roman
Asst. Opinions Editor
This week Americans have heard and/or witnessed the rattling story of two teenagers that were both victims of their circumstances. This week back in the news is the case of now 16 year-old Daisy Coleman who was allegedly raped and left to die on her yard over two years ago.
Two years ago the charges of sexual assault and endangerment of the welfare of a child, against then 17 year-old Matthew Barnett were dropped even though there was substantial medical evidence that Coleman had been sexually assaulted and endangered when thrown unconscious on her lawn and left to freeze.
Defense attorneys think the case in Missouri was dropped because of Barnett’s family’s influential background. The grandson of State Representative Rex Barnett who served four terms in the House admitted to having ties with the case prosecutor at the time but argued he did not meddle with the trial.
The family was forced to leave the small town of Maryville, Missouri after the town turned against them. The town’s people began harassing and threatening the ‘out of town’ family, and both Daisy and her older brother were being viciously bullied in school and on social media by classmates.
Daisy’s story has now (after two years) become mainstream once again after the hacker collective ‘Anonymous’ published a press release announcing their interest in investigating the way the trial and charges were dropped and closed.
The hacker collective stated in their national virtual press release “that if the town on Maryville won’t defend… if the police are too cowardly or corrupt…if the justice system has abandoned them, then someone else will have to stand for them” #OPMaryville, International Business Times.
This hacker collective under the name Anonymous has been posting information on the trial under #Justice4Dasiy and #OpMaryville. Anonymous warned the town of Maryville to wake up and is investigating Maryville Mayor Jim Fall. The grouped vowed to petition and circulate Coleman’s story until the case was reopened.
This week it was announced that Daisy Coleman’s case would be reopened for trial. Coleman now in Albany was grateful to hear that her case would be reopened and on xojane.com posted her story and thanked the hacker collective Anonymous for bringing back to light the injustice that had been done to her.
When you see how the Internet was used in this news story as compared to the news of 12 year-old Rebecca Sedwick suicide on Sept. 9 after a year of face-to-face and cyber bullying you can’t help but see a sharp contrast in the pro’s and con’s of the use of Internet for pressuring and coercing change.
While for Daisy Coleman’s case the Internet helped bring to light her case and mistreatment, for Sedwick the Internet pushed her to her death. It’s great when you hear of people using the Internet for a great cause and its heart wrenching to hear when people are using the Internet for foul play.
The hacker collective Anonymous, though unconventional, is working towards a greater good for Daisy Coleman and her family.
They have become what seems like the first ever ‘cyber vigilante’s’ and are using the Internet to exploit cases that have been cast aside and hushed from public attention.
It’s great to see a collective of people come together and use the Internet as a weapon for the greater good. If only there were more stories and collective groups like Anonymous that would promote justice and set examples for what the Internet should be used for.
Instead these stories are few and what we do hear a lot more of is stories of teenagers and kids using the Internet for bullying, stalking, and harassment. This week two girls have been arrested on charges of felony aggravated stalking Rebecca Sedwick.
The girls’ Internet social network accounts such as Facebook, Twitter, ask.fm, and Instagram are the main source of evidence that are being used to charge the girls for the aggravated stalking and bullying of Sedwick.
These two girls ages 14 and 13 (whose names haven’t been released due to their age) were like many using the Internet to bring harm to someone else. The girls wrote things to Sedwick like “eat bleach and die” and “kill yourself.”
The Internet is useful in so many ways. For Daisy Coleman the Internet has worked to bring light to her unfair trial and become a way to advocate some type of justice for her. But for kids like Rebecca Sedwick and others, the Internet becomes a source of oppression and terror.
No one can escape the modern Internet age that we live in. But as a society should work towards creating an Internet that works for the good of everyone.
Groups like Anonymous are setting an example of the good things that can come from online media, and I hope we see a trend in more collective groups like this and less of collective groups that work to hurt and bully others through online media.